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‘Well done, good and faithful servant’

Gospel Commentary Nov. 10, Lk 11:5-13

A young man from a faith-filled family turns to his torturers who have just killed his three brothers and courageously states: “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by him.” This passage from the second Book of Maccabees, written approximately 100 years before Christ, reflects a late development in Judaism — belief in eternal life. The Book of Wisdom, compiled around the same time, states: “For God made man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him” (Wis 2:23).

From a natural, human stand point, outside the bounds of faith, there are plenty of realities that point to the concept of life after death. For instance, there is a profound longing in the human heart to live more than 70 or 80 years. This longing reflects a reality more weighty than the instinct for self-preservation common to all animals. Countless cultures down through the centuries have had the practice of burying the dead with various items, like food or gold, to assist them in the afterlife. This reality is also manifest in the human hunger for deeper joy, permanent happiness, more profound peace of soul, and greater unity with those we love.

Our Christian faith addresses the belief in everlasting life in clear and encouraging ways. The Book of Genesis states directly that we were built by God and for God. Our heavenly Father lovingly fashioned us with a soul that is able to know, love and serve him. He created us to be in relation with him, and since he is infinite, we were made to live with him for all eternity. St. Augustine said it so precisely: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”

Jesus preached often about eternal life. In today’s Gospel, in response to a question from the Sadducees, a Jewish sect at the time of Christ who denied that there is a resurrection, Jesus speaks of “those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead … They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.”

In the famous Bread of Life discourse from John’s Gospel, Jesus teaches about the great gift of the Eucharist and proclaims: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day.” He goes on to say three verses later, “Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever” (Jn 6:54, 58). Our Lord is unambiguous: He came to restore us to eternal life.

The resurrection of the dead and the great blessing of being drawn into the life and love of God in heaven for all eternity is a fundamental element of our Christian faith. We are invited, as we approach the end of the church’s liturgical year, to rejoice in God’s offer, to pray for deeper faith in this mystery, and beg for the grace to live our lives now so as to hear those words from Jesus at the end of our earthly journey: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy” (Mt 25: 21).

Fr. Peterson is director of mission and development for the Youth Apostles.

 

                

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019